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Suffolk OTB asks panel to approve plan for VLT casino

Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. will ask the Suffolk County Planning Commission Wednesday to approve a site plan for its new $65 million video lottery terminal casino in Medford, near Long Island Expressway Exit 64.

OTB is proposing a 1,000-machine gambling complex, with a food court and restaurants, and parking for 1,400 cars on 31.6 acres on the site of a former movie multiplex. The project totals 98,735 square feet.

Planning commission staff has recommended approval, noting the site is zoned for commercial recreation and is compatible with adjacent properties on three sides that are zoned industrial and commercial. The fourth side is separated from residential areas by 8 acres of woods, they said.

"This is a facility that will produce hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue," said Phil Nolan, OTB president. "We will be the best of neighbors and we will significantly upgrade the area."

However, county planning staff raised questions about waste water limits, parking lot layout and safety issues. David Calone, commission chairman, said a government project should be on the "leading edge" of sustainable development and "clearly that is not what's proposed."

The Brookhaven Town planning board was scheduled to begin its review Wednesday, but postponed it while awaiting further information from OTB consultants.

Some opponents say the casino will increase crime and create a greater demand on public services.

"Casinos have a negative effect on the quality of life wherever they are sited," said Maryann Johnston, president of the Association of Brookhaven Civic Organizations.

"A casino in Brookhaven or anywhere on Long Island is a losing bet," said Frank Profeta, co-leader of Brookhaven Conservative Committee. "Revenues are down at Mohegan Sun and Foxwood [Connecticut casinos], and they are going out of business in Atlantic City."

Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley, a Republican who represents Medford, said he sides with residents and civic leaders who oppose the casino. "I just think it's not the right fit in that location. I'm not against casinos. I'd rather see the county look at other locations."

The staff review said the casino is likely to "attract a majority of low-income workers and retirees," generally from within 10 miles. The staff urged increased attention to public safety issues to address "typical concerns related to gambling establishments such as increases in assault, motor vehicle theft, prostitution and sex offenses, drug violations, DUI public drunkenness and disorderly conduct."

Nolan said the complex "will be as safe as we can possibly make it, with private security and EMTs on site, as well as lights and security cameras to protect customers."

While OTB said casino waste water flow would total 9,480 gallons per day, the planning staff estimated flows could be as high as 10,500 gallons daily, not counting waste water from food services.

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